Recommended settings for Unity

Unity provides a set of default options that are generally the average case for all platforms. However, Unity offers some behaviors specific to mixed reality that can be toggled through project settings.

Performant environment set-up

Low-quality settings

It's important to modify the Unity Quality settings to Very Low so that your application runs and performs well at the appropriate framerate, especially for HoloLens development. For development on immersive headsets, depending on the specs of the desktop powering the VR experience, one can still achieve framerate without the lowest quality parameters.

In Unity 2019 LTS+, you can set the project's quality level by going to Edit > Project Settings > Quality and setting the Default by clicking on the downward arrow to the **Very Low-quality level.

Lighting settings

Similar to Quality scene settings, it's important to set optimal Lighting settings for your Mixed Reality application. In Unity, the Lighting setting that will usually have the greatest performance impact on your scene is Realtime Global Illumination. You can turn off Global Illumination by going to Window > Rendering > Lighting Settings > Realtime Global Illumination.

There's another lighting setting, Baked Global Illumination. This setting can provide performant and visually striking results on immersive headsets but isn't applicable for HoloLens development. Baked Global Illumination is only calculated for static GameObjects, which aren't found in HoloLens scenes because of the nature of an unknown and changing environment.

Read Global Illumination from Unity for more information.


Realtime Global Illumination is set per-scene and thus developers must save this property for every Unity scene in their project.

Single pass instancing rendering path

In Mixed Reality applications, the scene is rendered twice: once for each eye. Compared to traditional 3D development, this effectively doubles the amount of work that needs to be computed. It's important to select the most efficient rendering path in Unity to save on both CPU and GPU time. Single pass instanced rendering optimizes the Unity rendering pipeline for mixed reality apps; we recommend that you enable this setting by default for every project.

To enable this feature in your Unity Project

  1. Open OpenXR Settings (go to Edit > Project Settings > XR Plugin Management > OpenXR).
  2. Select Single Pass Instanced from the Render Mode drop-down menu.

Read the following articles from Unity for more details with this rendering approach.


One common issue with Single Pass Instanced Rendering occurs if developers already have existing custom shaders not written for instancing. After enabling this feature, developers may notice some GameObjects only render in one eye. This is because the associated custom shaders do not have the appropriate properties for instancing.

Enable depth buffer sharing

To achieve better hologram stability from the perception of the user, it's recommended to enable the Depth Buffer Sharing property in Unity. By turning this on, Unity will share the depth map produced by your application with the Windows Mixed Reality platform. The platform can then better optimize hologram stability specifically for your scene for any given frame being rendered by your application.

To enable this feature in your Unity Project

  1. Open OpenXR Settings (go to Edit > Project Settings > XR Plugin Management > OpenXR).
  2. Select Depth 16 Bit from the Depth Submission Mode drop-down menu.

The 16-bit depth buffer setting is especially recommended for HoloLens development. Selecting 16-bit compared to 24-bit will significantly reduce the bandwidth requirements as less data will need to be moved/processed. That said, the optimization comes with certain cost. Make sure you understand the implications mentioned in the Important boxes below.

In order for the Windows Mixed Reality platform to optimize hologram stability, it relies on the depth buffer to be accurate and match any rendered holograms onscreen. Thus, with depth buffer sharing on, it's important when rendering color to also render depth. In Unity, most Opaque or TransparentCutout materials will render depth by default but transparent and text objects won't render depth, although this is dependent on shaders and other factors.

If using the Mixed Reality Toolkit Standard shader, to render depth for transparent objects:

  1. Select the transparent material that is using the MRTK Standard shader and open the Inspector editor window
  2. Select the Fix Now button within the depth buffer sharing warning. This can also be performed manually by setting the Rendering Mode to Custom; then set Mode to Transparent and finally set Depth Write to On


Developers should beware of Z-fighting when changing these values along with the camera's near/far plane settings. Z-Fighting occurs when two gameobjects try to render to the same pixel and due to limitations in fidelity of the depth buffer (i.e z depth), Unity cannot discern which object is in front of the other. Developers will note a flickering between two game objects as they fight for the same z-depth value. This can be solved by switching to 24-bit depth format as there will be a larger range of values for each object to calculate upon for their z-depth from the camera.

However, it is recommended, particularly for HoloLens development, to modify the camera's near and far planes to a smaller range instead and retain the 16-bit depth format. The z-depth is non-linearly mapped to the range of values along the near and far camera planes. This can be modified by selecting the Main Camera in your scene and under Inspector, change the Near & Far Clipping Plane values to reduce their range (i.e from 1000m to 100m or other x value, etc.)


Unity does not create a stencil buffer when using 16-bit depth format. Thus, some Unity UI effects and other stencil-required effects will not work unless 24-bit depth format is selected which will create an 8-bit stencil buffer.

Building for IL2CPP

Unity has deprecated support for the .NET scripting backend and thus recommends that developers utilize IL2CPP for their UWP visual studio builds. Although this brings various advantages, building your visual studio solution from Unity for IL2CPP can be slower than the old .NET method. Thus, it is highly recommended to follow best practices for building IL2CPP to save on development iteration time.

  1. Leverage incremental building by building your project to the same directory every time, reusing the pre-built files there
  2. Disable anti-malware software scans for your project & build folders
    • Open Virus & threat protection under your Windows 10 settings app
    • Select Manage Settings under Virus & threat protection settings
    • Select Add or remove exclusions under the Exclusions section
    • Select Add an exclusion and select the folder containing your Unity project code and build outputs
  3. Use an SSD for building

Read Optimizing Build Times for IL2CPP for more info.


Furthermore, it may be beneficial to setup a Cache Server, especially for Unity projects with a large amount of assets (excluding script files) or constantly changing scenes/assets. When opening a project, Unity stores qualifying assets into an internal cache format on the developer machine. Items must be re-imported and thus re-processed when modified. This process can be done once and saved in a Cache Server and consequently shared with other developers to save time, instead of every developer processing the re-import of new changes locally.

Publishing properties

Holographic splash screen

HoloLens has a mobile-class CPU and GPU, which means apps may take a bit longer to load. While the app is loading, users will just see black, and so they may wonder what's going on. To reassure them during loading, you can add a holographic splash screen.

To toggle the holographic splash screen:

  1. Go to Edit > Project Settings > Player page
  2. Select the Windows Store tab and open the Splash Image section
  3. Apply your image under the Windows Holographic > Holographic Splash Image property.
    • Toggling the Show Unity Splash Screen option will enable or disable the Unity branded splash screen. If you don't have a Unity Pro license, the Unity branded splash screen will always be displayed.
    • If a Holographic Splash Image is applied, it will always be displayed whether the Show Unity Splash Screen checkbox is enabled or disabled. Specifying a custom holographic splash image is only available to developers with a Unity Pro license.
Show Unity Splash Screen Holographic Splash Image Behavior
On None Show default Unity splash screen for 5 seconds or until the app is loaded, whichever is longer.
On Custom Show Custom splash screen for 5 seconds or until the app is loaded, whichever is longer.
Off None Show transparent black (nothing) until app is loaded.
Off Custom Show Custom splash screen for 5 seconds or until the app is loaded, whichever is longer.

Read Unity's Splash Screen documentation for more info.

Tracking loss

A Mixed reality headset depends on seeing the environment around it to construct world-locked coordinate systems, which allow holograms to remain in position. When the headset is unable to locate itself in the world, the headset is said to have lost tracking. In these cases, functionality dependent on world-locked coordinate systems, such as spatial stages, spatial anchors and spatial mapping, don't work.

If a loss of tracking occurs, Unity's default behavior is to stop rendering holograms, pause the game loop, and display a tracking lost notification that comfortably follows the users gaze. Custom notifications can also be provided in the form of a tracking loss image. For apps that depend upon tracking for their whole experience, it's sufficient to let Unity handle this entirely until tracking is regained. Developers can supply a custom image to be shown during tracking loss.

To customize the tracking lost image:

  1. Go to Edit > Project Settings > Player page
  2. Select on the Windows Store tab and open the Splash Image section
  3. Apply your image under the Windows Holographic > Tracking Loss Image property.

Opt-out of automatic pause

Some apps may not require tracking (e.g. orientation-only apps such as 360-degree video viewers) or may need to continue processing uninterrupted while tracking is lost. You can opt out of the default loss of tracking behavior but you're responsible for hiding/disabling any objects, which wouldn't render properly in a tracking-loss scenario. In most cases, the only content that is recommended to be render in that case is body-locked content, centered around the main camera.

To opt out of automatic pause behavior:

  1. Go to the Edit > Project Settings > Player page
  2. Select the Windows Store tab and open the Splash Image section
  3. Modify the Windows Holographic > On Tracking Loss Pause and Show Image checkbox.

Tracking loss events

To define custom behavior when tracking is lost, handle the global tracking loss events.


For an app to take advantage of certain functionality, it must declare the appropriate capabilities in its manifest. The manifest declarations can be made in Unity so they're included in every future project export.

Capabilities can be enabled for a Mixed Reality application by:

  1. Go to Edit > Project Settings > Player page
  2. Select the Windows Store tab, open the Publishing Settings section, and look for the Capabilities list

The applicable capabilities for enabling the commonly used APIs for Holographic apps are:

Capability APIs requiring capability
SpatialPerception SurfaceObserver
WebCam PhotoCapture and VideoCapture
PicturesLibrary / VideosLibrary PhotoCapture or VideoCapture, respectively (when storing the captured content)
Microphone VideoCapture (when capturing audio), DictationRecognizer, GrammarRecognizer, and KeywordRecognizer
InternetClient DictationRecognizer (and to use the Unity Profiler)

See also